That week in late September when Massimo first appeared, she was laboring with more than the usual pain on a few pages where her central character–an American woman who was also working on something called The Italian Novel–sees she is no longer interested in the man she lives with. They have very different ways of thinking about things, the contrast has lost whatever charm it once had, and she has come to feel they are a poor erotic match. The difficulty Whitney the actual writer was having with the material was that it all seemed so conventional. In trying to convey something about the main character’s desire, for example, she had actually written, She wanted a man who would take her. Still worse, having drawn on her own experience to give form to this character, there was a difficult moment when she had to wonder whether she herself was also in some way poorly imagined.